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Ayurveda is a system of Indian medicine now practiced all over the world as a complementary system. Ayurvedic practitioners have identified a number of medicinal preparations and surgical procedures for curing various ailments and diseases, not completely curable in other systems. Many of its methods—such as herbs and massage, can be applied along with other systems, too.
Ayurveda, recognized as new age medicine now, represents the science of life and longevity originating in the Vedic tradition of India. A traditional holistic health care system, older than any other system of medicine, ayurveda has been practiced in India for more than 5000 years. Based on the principle of eternal life, this medical system has a vast body of knowledge covering eight branches. Its major premise involves the symbiosis of mind, body and spirit. Any imbalance in this synthesis results in physical ailments. This ancient Indian science of healing seeks to reestablish the harmony between the body and its habitat by creating the optimum health environment.
Over centuries ayurveda has had a nurturing influence on ancient Chinese systems of medicine, Unani medicine, and the humoral medicine practiced by Hippocrates in Greece. The current knowledge about ayurveda is primarily drawn from the Charaka Samhita (though there are earlier versions, Charaka Samhita in its present form is estimated to date from 1st century AD), Vagbhatta`s Ashtanga Hridayam (approximately 500 AD), and the Susruta Samhita (the Susruta Samhita is believed to have originated in the last centuries BC, but the date of its present version is fixed by researchers at 7th century AD). These three classic texts describe the basic principles and theories from which ayurveda has evolved. They reflect an overwhelming wealth of clinical as well as surgical information, enriched further by later research, on the management of a multitude of diseases and ailments.
The entire science of ayurveda is based on the `Five Great Elements` (Panchabhuta) theory. These five elements are earth (prithvi), water (jal), fire (agni or tej), air (vayu) and ether or space (akash). In popular tradition, the universe is understood to be made up of these elements. Ayurveda comprehends body, mind and spirit likewise and has specific methods for working on each. It divides the constitution of people into three humoral categories—Vata (ether/air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water/earth). Vata rules mental mobility. Pitta, or fire, governs digestion and assimilation on all levels from food to ideas. And Kapha or water governs form and substance and is responsible for weight, cohesion and stability. Using these three types in combinations of two creates six more subtypes. A seventh subtype also exists, which is a combination of all the three categories.
According to the concept of good management, ayurveda insists that the `Fault` or Dosha, the `Tissue` or Dhatu and the `Impurity` or Mala should be in harmony with each other, with all the components properly balanced. Any discordant note in this synthesis due to external or internal causes is a cause for concern. These are basically therapeutic measures taken either to prevent diseases or cure them. Thus, ayurvedic procedures are done either to detoxify the body or as a prelude to strengthening the immune system. Panchakarma or `five procedures`, is the most sought after therapy and so is anti-aging (Kaya Kalpa), detoxification therapy.